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Release of wife accused of killing pastor delayed

A Tennessee minister's wife accused of killing her husband failed to get out of jail Wednesday when a judge said more time was needed to review the paperwork for the $750,000 bond.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A minister's wife accused of killing her husband failed to get out of jail Wednesday when a judge said more time was needed to review the paperwork for the $750,000 bond.

Defense attorneys and an employee of a bonding company had arrived at the McNairy County Jail expecting to post bail for Mary Winkler, who is charged with first-degree murder.

Winkler has been in jail since March 23, the day after her 31-year-old husband, Matthew Winkler was found dead in the church parsonage in Selmer, about 80 miles east of Memphis.

But because the bond is so much higher than most cases dealt with in the county, Judge Weber McCraw told Winkler's lawyers to wait until the morning so court officials can review the paperwork to make sure everyting is in order.

Attorneys for Mary Winkler earlier in the day asked the judge to throw out her statements to police, one of which authorities described as a confession.

Winkler's lawyers contend she was illegally arrested in Orange Beach, Ala., the day after the March slaying and that any evidence against her resulting from that arrest cannot be presented in court.

Winkler was returned to Selmer after the arrest. Her trial is scheduled for October.

Attorneys said they would file additional written arguments, perhaps by next week, and Judge McCraw gave no indication when he would issue a ruling.

At a hearing Wednesday, an agent with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation said Winkler admitted shooting her husband but resisted talking about him.

"She said she didn't want the news media smearing him," agent Stan Stabler testified.

Stabler said Winkler told him she had not been physically abused.

Earlier ‘life-threatening experience’
But when asked by defense lawyer Steve Farese if she talked about a "life-threatening experience" with her husband several years earlier, Stabler said she did.

Stabler did not give details. He said Winkler told him her marriage improved after that incident, but it had begun to deteriorate over the past year.

Outside the courtroom, Farese refused to discuss the incident, but defense lawyers have implied since her arrest that she had a troubled marriage. Prosecutors also refused to talk about the investigation.

In a statement to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Winkler said she shot her husband with a 12-gauge shotgun after a night of arguing over finances and other family problems.

Defense lawyers said that statement and others should be dismissed because Winkler was arrested when police were looking for her as a missing person, not as an accused killer.

They say authorities lacked probable cause to arrest her when she was handcuffed, taken to jail and interrogated.

Church members find the body
Members of Matthew Winkler's Fourth Street Church of Christ found his body after his family failed to show up for an evening service March 22. Mary Winkler and their three young daughters were missing, and authorities issued a nationwide Amber Alert.

Orange Beach police officer Jason Whitlock said he spotted Mary Winkler and the children in the family van on the evening of March 23. Whitlock said he stopped the van and called other officers for backup. Four cruisers were soon on the scene, and Winkler was ordered out of the van at gunpoint.

Whitlock testified that he stopped Winkler because of the Amber Alert, but he had heard on police radio that she "possibly was suspected" in her husband's death.

"If you're looking for a missing person, you don't draw on them," Farese said. "That's an illegal arrest."

Prosecutor Walter Freeland said the Orange Beach police acted properly in holding Mary Winkler for questioning by Tennessee authorities.

"Anything less than they did would be the grossest dereliction of duty," Freeland said.

The Winkler children are living with their father's parents.